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Mon November 17, 2008
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Isabella Swan: [to Edward] "I know what you are. You're impossibly fast. And strong. Your skin is pale white, and ice cold."
And a vampire. That piece of information is not a spoiler because almost every teenage girl knows the impossibly popular Twilight novel series by Stephanie Meyer is about 17-year-old Isabella Swan's love for 17-year-old Edward Cullen, a very handsome vampire.
Oh, the longing. I forgot the teenage angst that feeds off a benign, unfulfilled lust for the opposite sex, whom the nuns made us fear as if girls were vampires.
Twilight does as well as any film could in figuratively embodying the Romeo-and-Juliet-like difficulties of connecting temporarily, for a lifetime, or for eternity as is the case of the heroes in this enjoyable if emotionally overcooked romance.
Somewhere in the delightful plot possibilities of a Washington state town called Forks, near Port Angeles, is an interesting family of mild-mannered vampires with some intriguing story possibilities, even some laughs. After all, the figurative living dead have always peopled our offices and audiences, so why not the real thing? It's only when director Catherine Hardwicke lingers over the hero and heroine with their painful stares of desire that you may wish for some stock vampire stuff to relieve the tedium.
In fact, I am beginning to long myself for the hammy other Bella, Lugosi that is, as Dracula (1931), or Max Schreck's visually- haunting Nosferatu (1929), to satisfy my yearning for outright scary bloodsucking. The movement to defang, so to speak, some of our most enduring genres (James Bond, Spiderman, and Batman come to mind in the superhero category) by getting deeper into brooding, realistic characterization is taking away the conventional titillations such as fangs and frilly femmes in vampire movies and gadgets and sleazy ladies in the Bond franchise.
In other words, sometimes I like cheesy, and Twilight is not that enough. What it does well is take a cloudy, forbidding Washington and make it romantic through the magic of aerial photography and true romance, albeit it of the adolescent type. The film advances the accepted interpretation of vampirism as unbridled lust and civilizes it to where desire can be seen as just another controllable emotion, not a life-threatening obsession. Hardwicke successfully navigates teens' brooding emotions.
"One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach. All the damn vampires." Last line of The Lost Boys.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml Friday at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com